Dugdale to Corbyn: I’m the boss in Scotland

NEW Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to visit Scotland this week - but has been warned by Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale that she is charge north of the border.

New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London yesterday. Picture: PA
New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London yesterday. Picture: PA
New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London yesterday. Picture: PA

Mr Corbyn was declared Ed Miliband’s successor on Saturday on the back of a surge of support from activists which saw him attract 59.5 per cent of votes - topping the ballot among party members as well as trade unionists and new supporters.

It has been widely viewed as a political “earthquake” in British politics. The left-wing candidate was last night assembling a front-bench team after a host of senior Labour MPs warned they would be unwilling to serve in a Corbyn shadow cabinet.

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Ms Dugdale was among the first to congratulate Mr Corbyn in London after his victory on Saturday, but had been critical of him during the campaign.

Ms Dugdale said yesterday: “I also won a significant mandate just a few weeks ago to lead the party here in Scotland.

“I am the leader of the Scottish Labour party so the positions that we take here, the policies we make, will be decided by me here in Scotland alongside my team.

“But I look forward to welcoming Jeremy to Scotland this week. We’ll do a visit together, we set out on the front foot, standing up for working families.

“We stand side by side on issues like taking on the Tories’ attack on union rights, on their attempts to cutting working families’ tax credits in the next few days.”

Labour was left with just one seat - losing 40 - in Scotland after the UK general election in May this year.

However, yesterday Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said Mr Corbyn could be the man to revive the party’s fortunes north of the border.

“We had four candidates and the challenge for them was how to win supporters back in Scotland, on the south coast, in the Home Counties.

“That’s a huge, huge challenge.”

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Mr McCluskey warned that boundary changes mean that labour is poised to lose up to 25 seats next time round.

“We need Scotland back into Labour,” he said. “Can Liz bring Scotland back in? No. Can Yvette or Andy? I don’t think so.

“The only person possibly with a chance of bringing Scotland back into Labour is Jeremy.

“His challenge is to try to put together a team that appeals to old Labour values which I believe are the core values of British people.”

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Shabana Mahmood yesterday became the latest MP to rule out serving under Mr Corbyn. Defeated leadership rivals Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have declared they would not take a role - with Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Chris Leslie, Emma Reynolds and Jamie Reed also returning to the backbenches.

It remained unclear whether Andy Burnham, who came a distant second in the leadership contest and had said he could work with Mr Corbyn, and Chuka Umunna - who issued a plea for unity - would accept jobs. Ivan Lewis revealed that he had been replaced as shadow Northern Ireland secretary despite offering to stay on to deal with the ongoing political crisis in the Stormont assembly.

Among those tipped for the crucial role of shadow chancellor are Angela Eagle and Mr Corbyn’s campaign chief and fellow left-winger, John McDonnell, though his appointment to the role could alienate other potential allies.

The only confirmed appointment so far is Rosie Winterton, who stays as chief whip, a crucial role likely to prove a headache over issues such as military action in Syria, which Mr Corbyn opposes but many of his MPs support.

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But the prospect of a radical policy agenda being pursued by Mr Corbyn was last night played down by one of his closest allies, Diane Abbot. She said he will not seek Britain’s exit from Nato or the European Union but will maintain opposition to the renewal of Trident.

New deputy leader Tom Watson said he understood the concerns of moderate colleagues about the dramatic political shift but urged them to “respect” the mandate given by voters.

He insisted there was “zero chance” of a successful coup against the new leader who was seeking “a front-bench that represents all the talents and all the views”.

In a signal of the potentially divisive battles to come, Mr Watson - seen as a crucial linchpin in securing party unity - accepted that he and many other MPs opposed Mr Corbyn over the renewal of Trident.